Monday, 19 June 2017

GRENFELL: THE LESSON OF WHY-NO-ONE-LISTENED


Sarah Paton
Image result for grenfell fire picturesand the
burning
tower
There are lessons from the Grenfell Tower disaster for Riverside Housing  Association as it faces  continued criticism of its bossy ways.
These lessons will have been studied by Ms Sarah Paton Riverside`s north regional director as she negotiates with  Carlisle City councillors who are fighting to ensure that Riverside tenants  get a fair deal.
The Grenfell  lessons are about more than cladding and sprinklers. They are about tenants` long-standing anxiety about fire and safety and why no one listened.
The tower`s landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) has come under enormous criticism, most powerfully from the unofficial tenants’ Grenfell Action Group.  
The action group`s criticisms of the recent refurbishment and of tenants’ safety fears were ignored – with the consequences we now know all too well.
The Kensington and Chelsea TMO was formed by a borough-wide transfer of housing – 9,700 homes in all – from the Conservative-controlled council in 1996.
This TMO like many others was a reaction to the council bureaucracies which had previously managed social housing .
TMO`s were promoted by their advocates as more responsive and more representative than councils with genuine accountability and clear and open lines of communication.
All  this proved to be no more than a dream, Some might say it was a hoax. Whatever, it  was due to be repeated three hundred miles away in Carlisle and no doubt in other places as councils planned to privatise their social housing or rid themselves of it some other way.
 In Carlisle in 2002 the city lost about the same number of social homes as that involved in Kensington and Chelsea.
Carlisle never got a TMO. It got the Merseyside-based Riverside Housing Association which like the Kensington and ChelseaTMO was also promoted as more responsive and more representative than the city council.
But  what resulted in Carlisle in the years that followed was not much different from what happened subsequently in Kensington and Chelsea except fortunately,  there was no Grenfell disaster.
There has been no genuine accountability in the 14 years since Riverside took over in Carlisle . Riverside is accountable to no one but itself.
And there has been no open lines of communication. Tenant representation was abolished when Riverside took over and  ended all tenant groups.
Instead , Riverside installed its obnoxious dictatorial Persistant Complaints Procedure with sanctions against complaining tenants.
Unsurprisingly (as happened in Kensington) because Riverside never listened, Carlisle also got its  unofficial action group similar to the Kensington and Chelsea unofficial action group, Grenfell Action Group.
This  group was Longtown Action for Heat formed by tenants to fight a large-scale Riverside heating cock up that caused misery  and suffering  to dozens of tenants and  landed them with massive energy bills of £4,000.

Sarah Paton is due to to meet  the critical Carlisle councillors soon with a package of measures that will hopefully make Riverside more accountable to its tenants.

Hopefully  she will have learned the why-no-one-listened lesson of Grenfell Tower.

But don`t hold your breath.

  Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES




A great book,
Pat “looks like
 you have a smash
 on your hands” 
A harvest of memories has become a harvest of success for author Pat Hitchon who is enjoying booming sales of her community-supported book, Botcherby A Garden Village.

Good news for Pat because at the outset the book was a gamble. But it was also a a labour of love and Pat was prepared  to spend several hundred pounds of her own money to get  the book published because she had such fond memories of life in Botcherby, It was then changing from being a country village into what  is now a district of  the city of Carlisle.


There were other fond memories too and

Pat spent four years collecting them.  Hundreds of  other people remembered and loaned photos, letters , diaries. And the local community group Botcherby Forever held monthly workshop meetings to help collect those  memories.

Professional help in editing  came from Pat`s brother Gil, a former journalist and magazine editor.



The gamble has now paid off and all 300 copies of the book have  been sold.  Now comes another gamble as Pat orders a second edition. But this time she is keeping her fingers well cossed… it is far from certain that all copies will be sold.



Gambles or not, Pat`s  250-page  book with more than 1,000 pictures has done well since its very  successful launch  a month ago at  Botcherby Community Centre. One hundred and thirty five friends and guests attended including the Mayor Councillor Mrs Trish Vasey and the Mayoress Mrs Elaine Donnelly.



There  was  a lot of good feeling in the air, as people met up with old friends at a buffet and discovered long lost neighbours.


Shortly afterwards Stephen White of Carlisle Library invited Pat to do a ‘Meet the Author’ event . Again this was  popular with visitors enjoying a coffee, watching a presentation and a book-signing.


Success as an author is  nothing new to Pat. But she had to wait until retirement to achieve that success.


At the age of seven she told her mother that she wanted to be either a milliner or a newspaper reporter – as it turned out she became neither.  Instead she studied business administration and spent much of her career working for Cumbria Education Department and for the last 24 years for the Careers Service where she became Senior Finance Officer.


But the writing bug never left her and before retiremen she researched (and her brother Gil wrote) a history of Carlisle’s famous Victorian artist, Sam Bough, which won the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 1999.


On her retirement Pat turned again to writing and produced ‘Chanel and the Tweedmaker’ the 100 year history of Linton Tweeds in Carlisle, which again was a runner-up in the Lakeland Book of the Year awards and was published in 2012. It proved very popular with fashion and textile lovers.


Her early childhood memories of visiting her relatives at Croft Nurseries in Botcherby led her to fulfil the long held ambition and write a history of Botcherby.


At the invitation of John Barker Secretary of Botcherby Forever Community Group, she joined the group in 2013 and work on the book began. Botcherby  Forever is part of Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation which publishes this blog.


WHAT DO READERS

THINK OF PAT`S BOOK?



Here are some of the comments


Well done Pat, Happy Days have come back to Botcherby!


 This is a beautiful, quality book, the pictures and presentation are wonderful. Very well done.

Congratulations, absolutely wonderful, my wife wants to read it, but I won’t let her until I finish it.


A marvellous book –fantastic – I’m very impressed.


A great book. Pat, start your next one Right Now!!



It seems as though everyone I speak to is enthralled by the 250 pages.



What an excellent book, I was unsure what to expect when you first mentioned it to me. But this book is fantastic.



I am writing to say what an excellent and attractive book this is. I have not read it properly yet but have ‘dipped in and out’ and thoroughly enjoyed the information. Brought back long forgotten memories. Congratulations to you and all those who worked so hard with you on this hugely successful and interesting achievement.


Many congratulations, the launch was so busy and the book well, really special an absolute gem, so much information and such a pleasant presentation. Congrats,


Well done on a great book launch and event today Pat, looks like you have a smash on your hands , brilliant achievement, congrats!

...

I’m so pleased for you that it has all come to fruition. There’s a lot of reading there and many memories woken (Miss Lily and all!)  I am glad that it has all gone so well.

Wishing you lots of luck with your book launch – you deserve it.



I hope everything goes well for you, Pat. I will look out for the book when it comes into the shops.



The cost of publication was assisted by Pat winning a £1,000 Hunter Davies Bursary award from Cumbria Community Foundation, and by sponsorship from Crown Bevcan and the Botcherby Forever group.

 
   Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228




Sunday, 4 June 2017

THE OTHER FIGHT FOR DEMOCRATIC FREEDOM




  Sarah Paton and the Islamist
terror threat

The terror threat continues with last night`s London slaughter… and as the country grapples to defeat the Islamist militants, another fight for democratic  values  and human rights goes on.

This is the fight against the bossy and autocratic rule of Riverside Housing Association.

Some people reading this article will reject its lumping together of international terror and the  operations of a comparatively insignificant  Merseyside housing organisation . Certainly there is a massive difference in the operating scale of the two bodies.

But the  aim of both organisations is  identical: that is to  use force to impose undemocratic rule .



The British people have confidence that the Islamists will be defeated and crushed. But what about  Riverside`s 50,000 tenants and leaseholders?  Can they be confident that their autocratic and bossy rulers will be defeated?



New light on the undemocratic nature of the Riverside operation was shone recently by Carlisle city councillors expressing concern that tenants have no democratic structure to get their problems addressed.



Councillors are hoping that they will gain new rights for tenants and leaseholders following the current negotiastions with Riverside`s  Carlisle boss, Ms Sarah Paton the recently-appointed north regional director.



And nationally, there is a new challenge to Riverside and all the other hundred or so housing associations.




UKIP has promised to “launch a review” of the operation of housing associations after including an attack on the sector in its election manifesto.



“Housing associations are accountable neither to taxpayers, who provide much of their funding, nor to their own tenants,”  said the manifesto



 “They are not building as many homes as private developers, the homes they do build cost more to put up, and they are failing to tackle anti-social behaviour.



“Housing associations manage 60% of the socially rented sector… but UKIP is not convinced they are benefiting either tenants or the taxpayer..”


The UKIP manifesto sparked a debate in the columns of Inside Housing, the social housing trade paper.

Some of the views expressed in that debate echo the views of the concerned Carlisle councillors and the views of campaigning groups such as Carlisle Tenants`` and Residents` Fedeartion which publishes this blog.

Here are the views of one Inside Housing reader, Andy Thompson(below):

  • “Gosh - how do you express support for what UKIP has said about housing associations without implying support for the party? Difficult! However, what has been said about housing associations is not a million miles away from the truth.

They are inefficient when it comes to new build costs compared to both developers and local authorities. They are increasingly out of touch with communities and tenants - how can a mega association covering the UK really be part of the community?

They have had subsidy in cash and kind (cheap land, Section.106 deals, cut price stock transfers - average £15k a unit et al) that manufacturers would give their right arms, left legs and both ears for.

They do have appalling rates of pay at the top for providing a product with more buyers than sellers - I suspect the bosses of Honda UK or Sainsbury's would like to have waiting lists for Civic cars and Rice Krispies rather than have to go out and battle for every sale.



   Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228